My Word, A Surprise Here, Idiocy From Lucy Siegle

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Lucy Siegle wants us to know that the idea of wiping out bums with a piece of cloth, which then needs to be washed, is exciting and thrilling. You’re right, this is idiocy:

Mostly, these are the worst of times, but for loo roll purveyors and disruptors it will never be better. Sales are up and supermarket shelves are empty as more and more shoppers stockpile. So we should not be surprised by the rise of reusable toilet roll – squares of washable textiles that are linked together with plastic poppers and sold on sites such as Etsy.

If you are, like me, invested in a sustainable lifestyle, the idea is quite thrilling. Reusable represents the gold standard of eco-engineering. Everything that is made and used has an eco footprint, which includes the energy used to create the thing in the first place. Single-use products are the worst, recycled a close second.

Given that we’re talking about, in part, twat wiping perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised by an outbreak of twattishness. Because that’s what this is, the idea that single use products are worst, recycled nearly as bad. The answer is, as always in matters economic, “It Depends”. Usefully, that also being the name of a brand of nappies which are also solutions to this problem.

For we’ve come across this point of single use against reusable before:

This point is illustrated in microcosm by those trying to get rid of single use plastic bags. The 5p charge for plastic bags has meant the sale of billions of so-called bags for life, which use twice as much plastic as the cheaper alternative. All those bags for life mean we use more plastic than we started with and even, possibly, more bags themselves. This was something that was warned about before the plastic bag charge was introduced, with some observing that even “single use” bags did tend to get used more than once.

So far, then, we have learnt that the planning deployed to reduce plastic has had the opposite effect. That, however, has not stopped the central planners from redoubling their efforts. The necessary charge for a bag is to double, the system is to be expanded to the tens of thousands of small shops that don’t currently have to charge. “It doesn’t work, let’s have more of it”, the cry of bureaucracies through the ages.

But this is the blending of government planning with the fashionable nostrums of our day so of course it gets worse. It’s not even true that the bags for life – and especially not the cotton ones, even less so the organic cotton – are more environmentally friendly than the single use ones. Even recycled ones use more resources than single-use ones – for yes, recycling is an industrial activity using energy and other resources.

We can even construct a little spectrum here. How many times do we need to reuse a bag for it to have as little resource use – and thus environmental effect – as just the one use of those thin single use plastic ones? Obviously enough, the single use that we’re told not to use has a value of one here. The bag for life must be reused 35 times. A bag for life from recycled plastic 84 times. A paper bag must be reused 43 times – yes, paper. A cotton bag 7,100 times and an organic cotton? 20,000.

Which is the environmentally friendly option here? Clearly and obviously the one that everyone insists we must not use. So much for fashionable nostrums then.

So, now we need a method of working this out. Which method of doing whatever uses fewer resources in total? And by resources we do mean resources. Not just trees that are grown in order to be chopped down to wipe bums with. But labour, time, energy, capital and all the rest. What, in fact, is the total cost of this method and the total cost of that?

Umm, we’ve got one of those don’t we? The price system?

How excellent, our problem is solved then. All we need to look at is the price of doing it this way and the price of doing it that. And the answer is?

Well, it ain’t washable cloths for ringpieces, is it? Because if that were the cheaper option we’d all still be using it as we all did before the invention of toilet paper.

Which is why the rumination is that idiocy. Because it’s ignoring that couple of centuries of human trial, error and experience.

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Pat
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Pat

As with many “green” proposals this assumes that labour is free.
I doubt she intends to wash her neighbour’s cloths gratis, but she is asking others to wash cloths for nothing.
A by-product of 50% university entrance- way too many would be chiefs telling way too few indians what to do.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

I think we blokes can all agree that it’d be cultural appropriation for us to soil our hands with what is plainly woman’s work. Of course there’s no reason that trans types shouldn’t also enjoy the thrill this gives women like them.

Spike
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Spike

Yours (and ours) is a nation full of college graduates with so little real-world grounding as to look to celebrities for tips on how to live life.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

I’m old enough to have tried this both ways. My kids wore toweling nappies and my grandkids wore disposable diapers. Guess which system I prefer.

Barks
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Barks

Anyone over 50 lived through the march from washable baby diapers to throw-aways, disposables. The march was relentless and about 99.99% successful over a period of about 25 years.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

So trees are a “renewable” resource if we chip them and burn them as fuel.

But they are non-renewable if we make toilet paper from them?

I would agree that there is no reason why toilet paper needs to be bleached, because the chlorine etc isn’t nice for the environment and you’re only wiping you bum on it, but paper is literally trees.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

And, flushed down the sewer, along with a diverse, nay, vibrant, bacterial culture, it sits in tanks to be converted to methane, which can be fed into the gas grid to power our heaters and cookers thus …

… oh, wait, damn! They just banned that as well!!!

John B
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John B

‘… which includes the energy used to create the thing in the first place.‘ How about the energy used to clean the reusable ones? They will require large volume of boiling water, detergent and a fierce disinfectant… bleach would be best, copious water for rinsing. They would have to be washed separately, in a washing machine or boiler either used for nothing else or rigorously sanitised afterwards. Adding all this up will overall make it more energy intensive than disposable. Bacteria in the colon provide a useful function and are harmless unless they get into the upper gastro-intestinal system or… Read more »